Tools of the Trade
Today we’re getting practical! We’re often asked about what kinds of bar tools folks need for their home bars. You can pretty much MacGyver anything in your kitchen to make a cocktail (we’ve been known to use a sport water bottle or Mason jar to shake a cocktail in a pinch!); however, if you’re ready to invest in some dedicated equipment, we have a few recommendations. As always, keep in mind your preferences, what you make frequently, and your budget when selecting your tools. (Also: we are in no way compensated by recommending these companies; these are simply brands we use and enjoy!). This is another “save it for later” post for when you’re doing your barware shopping.
There are several varieties of cocktail shakers:
Boston shaker - two separate tins (or a tin plus pint glass) that fit together. This is the style used by most bartenders, because they are durable, easier to separate when cold, and a snap to clean. Usually used in conjunction with a Hawthorne strainer for straining the cocktail.
Cobbler shaker - comprised of the body, strainer, and cap. It has a built-in strainer, but sometimes the holes are too large to effectively strain particles. These are stylish but have a tendency to freeze-up after shaking, making them difficult to open.
Parisian (or French) shaker - if the Boston and Cobbler shakers had a baby! Consists of a large metal tin and a sloped cap. No built-in strainer on this one, though. Looks cool, but generally more expensive and harder to find.
It feels good in our hands, we can easily tell when the tins are properly chilled (and thus, so is our cocktail!), and it’s extremely easy to clean and care for.
Since we prefer a Boston shaker, this also necessitates the use of a Hawthorne strainer to keep the spent ice and non-potable ingredients from entering your cocktail glass. These are easy to find online or in kitchen stores, and there are even fashion versions available now with pop culture-inspired tops. (We may or may not own a Millennium Falcon strainer...) Just don’t buy one that’s too cheap - low-quality Hawthorne strainers have a tendency to break quickly.
Pretty self-explanatory, the mixing glass is used to stir cocktails. This can be as fancy as you would like it to be! Our favorite barware supplier, Cocktail Kingdom, has a lovely selection, and you can find some budget-friendly options online.
The long-handled bar spoon is helpful for stirring your cocktails smoothly and gently, while reaching the bottom of the mixing vessel. Some recipes also call for a "bar spoon" of an ingredient, which the International Bartender Association defines as 2.5 mL or about 1/2 teaspoon.
The Julep Strainer is an old-timey bar tool from the advent of ice being used in cocktails in the early 19th Century. Most bartenders use it nowadays when straining from a mixing glass or from the glass half of the Boston shaker. It's not a necessity for the home bar, but it's a pretty neat looking piece of equipment!
Fine Mesh Strainer
You might already have a fine mesh strainer in your kitchen, and it's endlessly helpful for straining out seeds, small ice chards, and other small bits that you don't want to drink in your cocktail. When the recipe says to "double strain," it means that you should strain it using both the Hawthorne or Julep strainer AND the fine mesh strainer. This will prevent both large and small particles from finding their way into your drinking glass.
These are the typical volume measuring tools of the bartender. Jiggers measure in milliliter- or ounce-based increments, so be careful that you're purchasing your preferred measurement system. They're easy to find online or in kitchen stores, but we really like this one for its many incremental measurements contained in one unit.
When juicing your lemons and limes, make it easier on yourself and pick up a handheld juice press. This will make your squeezing much easier than doing it by hand!
A nice, sharp paring knife will allow you to cut your fruit and trim your garnishes with ease!
The muddler is for gently releasing the juices or essence of herbs, fruit, and other whole ingredients in your cocktail (think: muddling mint for a mint julep). These come in wood, steel, plastic, or some combination thereof. We like the easy clean-up of a steel or plastic-tipped muddler.
The above tools will definitely get you far in outfitting your home bar with equipment! Are there any essentials on your bar cart that we missed? Let us know in the comments below!